COUNTRIES that supported the “no action” motion on Zimbabwe at the United Nations Commission for Human Rights repeated the official mantra that the country’s problems emanated from the land refo
rm exercise and the dispute with Britain.
The “no action” motion was supported by 27 countries – mainly from the Third World – with 24, including the bulk of the European Union countries, voting for the motion. Two countries – Brazil and Mexico – abstained.
The Republic of Congo representative at the commission, Roger Julien Menga, said the situation in Zimbabwe was being discussed for reasons completely unrelated to the situation of human rights.
“The government had been demonised because of its redressing of the uneven distribution of land that had been perpetuated since colonial days,” said Menga.
Nigeria, which was represented by Saidu Balare Samaila, said dialogue between the government and the opposition should produce results soon.
“Dialogue has been held between the opposition and the government, and this should bear fruit soon,” he said.
He said Nigeria appreciated that nation-building was an arduous task and it was important that the commission encourage efforts that were aimed at justice and healing in Zimbabwe.
Cuba and China also spoke in solidarity with Zimbabwe. But the US, Britain and EU countries strongly opposed the motion.
Richard Williamson of the United States said the government of Zimbabwe continued to conduct a concerted campaign of violence, repression and intimidation against its citizens, which demonstrated the leadership’s gross disregard of human rights.
“Within the commission, member-states had the responsibility to consider the substance of resolutions and not to play the procedural game of using no-action motions,” said Williamson.
“These motions amount to approval of the human rights abuses being perpetrated by nations that disregarded the fundamental principles of the commission,” he said.
Mary Whelan of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the union would oppose all “no-action” motions and would urge all those upholding freedom of expression to join it in this stand.
“The members of the commission should not seek to evade their responsibility to give a fair hearing to all motions,” she said.
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Nations, Chitsaka Chipaziwa, said human rights problems in the country were not out of the ordinary and allegations on that front should not take up any more of the commission’s attention.
“Therefore, the no-action mission was an appropriate step to take,” he said.
“Moreover, unlike some of the fancy statements designed to dazzle commission members, the step of tabling a no-action motion was a completely permissible action to take,” he said
The resolution would have expressed deep concern at what it said were continuing violations of human rights in Zimbabwe, in particular politically motivated violence, torture, violence against women, incidents of arbitrary arrest, restrictions on the independence of the judiciary and restrictions on the freedoms of opinion, expression, association and assembly.
The vote was as follows:
In favour (27): Bahrain, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Against (24): Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstentions (2): Brazil and Mexico.